The prankster behind the hijacking of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s personal website has spoken out, saying it was lucky he got his hands on the site before anyone else did, as it could’ve had “damaging repercussions”.
Speaking toThe New Daily, Melbourne search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist Jack Genesin, 23, who works at Digital Eagles marketing agency, said he took over Mr Morrison’s website on Friday to show “how easy” it was to take ownership of a domain.
“Part of my job is scouring domains that are about to expire and Scott Morrison’s was on top of the auction list – so I decided to bid $50 on the domain to see what would happen,” Mr Genesin said.
He said when he surprisingly won the bid, he redesigned it to feature an obscene pop-punk song about a teenage love affair called Scotty Doesn’t Know by American punk band Lustra (video below).
“It was a spur of the moment thing, so I chucked a photo of him up on the site and had a bit of a laugh,” he said.
Mr Genesin said he took over the site as a way of showing people why it was important to protect their digital assets.
“It’s lucky that I got my hands on it before anyone else did because it can have damaging repercussions, such as the possibility of accessing private emails,” he said.
“It looks like the domain was registered five to six years prior to this, so it just shows why you need to have your website on auto-renewal.”
He said the public response, particularly with #Scotty trending on Twitter had been overwhelming.
“It’s been pretty intense – the Facebook post I shared about it has had thousands of shares.
“I legally own the domain for a year. I’ve reached out to the Prime Minister’s office to get the site back in his hands but I’m yet to receive a response.
“They’ve published a different website on a new domain so it will be interesting to see if they reach out to me.”
Mr Genesin said he was annoyed by reports that “he hacked the site”.
“I want to make it clear that this wasn’t a hack. It’s completely legal and anyone could’ve purchased it, but no one else outbid me which is why I was sort of shocked when I found out that I had won the bid.”
Damien Manuel, director of the Centre for Cyber Security Solutions at Deakin University, said the incident highlighted a very important message to the public.
“People often forget to manage their branding by not renewing their domains in time,” he said.
“It’s easy to pay a website that can conduct a snapback service where, if somebody doesn’t continue with the renewal of their domain, someone else can become the owner and redirect it to another website that you own,” Mr Manuel told The New Daily.
He said if this embarrassing incident was able to affect the Prime Minister, then it highlighted how others could be affected.
“A company’s brand and reputation can easily be damaged if they don’t manage their online presence correctly.
“This could happen again because people often forget to renew their domains — and this highlights why you need to be on top of it.”
A spokesman for Mr Morrison told The New Daily the Prime Minister’s website was now at scottmorrisonmp.com.au.
“The office requested that the previous domain be re-registered some weeks ago, but a third-party provider did not succeed, so the Prime Minister’s website is now available at the new address,” the spokesman said.
The New Daily understands the office is trying to retrieve the original domain.